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First rule of philosophy a.k.a why you should have an open mind

Thu 17, May 2012

Today I was talking to one of my peers (a woman*), I don’t remember how** but the topic of the gender violence appeared. Soon after, she also mentioned something about traffic accidents; and then I said:

“(…) I agree, but traffic accidents kill more than 20 times more people than gender violence***; so I think is more important prevent traffic accidents than gender violence. Also, most deaths are because of heart attacks so (…)”

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Later I tried to convince her of that is much more important to prevent traffic accidents than prevent gender violence, and that save the starving people of Africa is a lot more important than any of those things****.

Also, spend (as example) 5 millions of euros/dollars/pounds in gender violence by implementing more ads; education programs; emergency phone lines etc. etc. Will save no more than (approximately and rounded up) 20 woman, but spend that money on prevent traffic accidents by removing blackspots will save up to (approximately and rounded down) 100 people.*****

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And then she replied (I don’t remember exactly the words, but this is basically the same she said):

“I agree, but I think is better to do both things”

Perfect, the problem is simple; we have limited resources, if we say “let’s both help with gender violence and traffic accidents”; half the resources will go to every cause and we won’t be as much efficient as we could.

So, I tried to tell her an allegory:

“Imagine that you have a piece of bread and that two persons are in front of you. One of them didn’t eat yesterday and the second will die tomorrow of starvation. Who will you give the bread?”

I expected she to say “the second”; that’s the logical reply. But not, she said dogmatically and irrationally:

“You are wrong”

Well, that was as much as I got. I tried to ask she why I was wrong; “Because you’re wrong” she said in many different ways as if she knew she was right and I wrong but without be able to say why.

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Wait, that was not all; she said I was trying to deceive she with my utilitarian dilemma!

This reminds me one quote of Joan Fuster:

“Estic convençut de que tots els dilemes són falsos: trampes fetes per tal de fernos acceptar coses en les que no estem d’acord”

“I think that all dilemmas are false; tricks for make us accept things which we don’t agree”

I disagree completely, we can; we should; we MUST be able to do anything in case we face utilitarian dilemmas. If killing one person I can save five, that don’t means that kill people is good; but that in that particular case was better to kill than not kill.

The same principles apply, is better not-to-help 20 women that are going to be killed by their husbands (unfortunately) if we save 100 people that are going to die because of a 180º turn.

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Is true that we don’t live in a “everybody is happy and the rainbows shine” world, so; we must face reality and don’t try to act like if we lived in that world instead of this, in that utopian world kill is unnecessary and there’s not any utilitarian dilemma: “it’s better to let die 1000 people if doing that you won’t have to kill 1” is the only answer that offers us that world.

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*Why the hell the English language hasn’t got any gender morpheme?

**Sorry, my memory is half great half poor.

***In Spain (where I live) the number of deaths of traffic accidents are more of 2000 and the number of deaths of gender violence are less than 100 (2000/100=20, just a coincidence).

****Although the logistics are so hard

*****Also, spend that money in Africa will represent; or thousands of unnecessary deaths (by feeding people without prevent overpopulation) or thousands of lives saved (if done correctly).

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